Mention AJS and most will think of motorcycles, but there was more to AJS than just motorcycles, they produced radios, buses and cars too. The company had quite a checkered history during its short reign at the beginning of the last century. AJS was spawned from a region in the West Midlands of England referred to as “The Black Country.” This is not a derogatory term, but initially aptly described a geographical area in south Staffordshire where one of the thickest coal seams in Great Britain was so close to the surface it turned the soil black. With such a rich resource, it became the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution and, like a cancer, its vague boundaries spread to include other districts and major towns of the area. The Rev. William Gresley, a prebendary of Litchfield Cathedral, in his novel Colton Green: The Tales of the Black Country, first coined the term. Unusually, it was the American diplomat, Ulihu Burritt, who brought the term to a more widespread use for the area in his book Walks in The Black Country and its Green Borderland. Burritt was requested by none other than President Abraham Lincoln, who charged all his consulates to write about the facts bearing upon the productive capacities, industrial character and natural resources of communities embraced in their Consulate Districts. Burritt’s description of the area forms the first few sentences of the first chapter of his book, “The Black Country, black by day and red by night, cannot be matched, for vast and varied production, of any other space of equal radius on the surface of the globe. It is a section of Titanic industry, kept in murky perspiration by a sturdy set of Tubal Cains and Vulcans, week in and week out, and often seven days to the week. Indeed the Sunday evening halo it wears when the Church bells are ringing to service on winter nights, glow ‘redder than the moon,’ or like the moon dissolved at the full on the clouds above the roaring furnaces.”
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